NAU students protested the recent passing of Senate Bill 1138 and SB 1165 — two bills attacking transgender people in the state of Arizona.

The protest took place in front of the University Union Starbucks Saturday, April 16, with volunteers arriving at 10 a.m. to decorate signs. The march through Flagstaff was followed by a protest in front of Flagstaff City Hall, which started at 11:30 a.m. At the protest’s peak, there were more than 30 people in attendance.

The protest was organized by People Respecting Individuals and Sexual Minorities (PRISM), a club that seeks to empower, advocate and support the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Cedar Morris, a transgender student and secretary of PRISM, said the protest has been in the works for a couple weeks, spurred on by the passing of SB 1138 and SB 1165 on March 30, just one day before International Transgender Day of Visibility.

“We just decided that we finally wanted to take charge and do something in our community, so we decided to do something and take a stand,” Morris said. 

Both of the bills PRISM was protesting limit the rights of transgender people in the state of Arizona, according to an Instagram post. SB 1138 prevents Arizona youth from receiving irreversible gender-reaffirming surgery until they are 18-years-old and SB 1165 prevents transgender youths from competing in school sports as the gender they identify as. Governor Doug Ducey’s press release described the laws as “common sense.”

However, not everyone sees the laws that way as Morris said he believes the laws may lead to more harm than good.

“I think it’s one of the few legal ways they can discriminate against trans youth,” Morris said. “I think they’re just finding any excuse they can to be transphobic, and this is one of the ways they can say, ‘Well trans kids, biologically, are different, so why don’t we just attack that?’”

During the protest, many drivers and onlookers honked their horns, raised their fists and cheered out their windows. 

Valerie Bishop was one of many protestors who made their voices known, who voiced the sentiment that transgender individuals are human too.

“There are a lot more trans people than people think,” Bishop said. “We’ve always been around, we’ll always be around. We’re humans too, just treat us like it.”

Bishop, a 2019 NAU graduate, said restrictions which the new laws put in place could hurt transgender visibility.

Moreover, Bishop said she is worried the passing of the bills could encourage people to think transphobia is acceptable.

“I’ve had people on the streets here in Flagstaff yell slurs at me,” Bishop said. “I’ve been assaulted, I’ve had people try to sexually assault me and it’s just kind of — enough is enough. I don’t want to see that get worse.”

Bishop and Morris said it ultimately comes down to the community. Both agreed if people choose to accept and protect the transgender youth and individuals that exist in a space, the transgender community will persevere.

Morris said anyone can help the transgender community by simply stepping up and making their voices heard for them. He said a little can go a long way in making transgender people be seen.

“If you were in a group and somebody were to say something, and you went ‘Hey man, that’s not cool,’ that holds so much power, and you can utilize that to make it a safe place for trans people than if I were to say the same thing,” Morris said. “If I do it, I will be a target then, but you will never be a target.”

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